David Adjaye’s cantilevered chairs establish a play between propping and balancing, so that they are simultaneously functional and sculptural.
The collection consists of two cantilevered side chairs, a club chair, an ottoman, a side table and the magnificent Washington Corona limited-edition bronze monumental coffee table
The cast aluminum chair, available with a copper finish ( above) , is the collection’s signature piece. “In a way it’s an exo-skeleton,” Adjaye says. “It’s an armature that gives you comfort.”
“Even the ‘classics’ are true to their own time—this is what gives them an enduring quality and an integrity that withstands fashion. I simply tried to respond honestly to a moment in time and by doing this, I hope the chairs will have a relevance well into the future. This is my interpretation of ‘contemporary.’” … David Adjaye
For Adjaye, designing is about “trying to find specific conditions and to amplify them and to make them aesthetic, to make them visual, to make them potential for being part of our world is what I’m super interested in.”
The Washington Collection for Knoll, David Adjaye’s first collection of furniture, transforms his architectural and sculptural vision into accessible objects for the home and office.
Adjaye explains that when Knoll design director Benjamin Pardo approached him about designing a chair, he was hesitant having never designed furniture before.
“He [Pardo] said, ‘Look, don’t worry about making a chair. Just make a series of studies of things that stimulate you and then we’ll got through a process and see from there what can be produced.’
Commenting on Adjaye’s work, Knoll design director Benjamin Pardo said, “David is doing really innovative and important architectural projects, and what really interested us was to see that work on an entirely new scale.”
Adjaye said that the opportunity to work with Knoll seemed like a dream. “Knoll is, in my business, a giant,” he said
David Adjaye said …. “Knoll approaches furniture as making connections between people and how they work and live their daily lives. This project has been an exhilarating and collaborative experience – an unexpected balancing act between the design and engineering processes. My original idea of what this furniture should be was continuously refined and transformed throughout.”
Features of the Washington Skeleton Chair
Suitable for outdoor use
Available with outdoor powder coat paint or copper plating
Copper plating will patina over time
Seat and legs are constructed of die-cast aluminum
Legs connect to seat with mortise and tenon joint
Designer’s signature and the Knoll Studio logo are located under the seat
Nylon glides included
Sustainable Design and Environmental Certification
Features of the Washington Skin Chair
Suitable for outdoor use
Available in seven UV-stable colors
Injection-molded, glass-reinforced nylon
Shell and legs are cast in three parts and are connected using mortise and tenon joinery and stainless steel fasteners
The unique prop-leg design is reinforced internally with a cast aluminum brace that is over-molded with nylon
Designer’s signature and the Knoll Studio logo are located under the seat
Features integral glides that elevate and protect the leg profile
Sustainable Design and Environmental Certification
Washington Corona Table
The Washington Corona Coffee Table is a sculptural translation of David Adjaye’s design for The Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture. Adjaye’s limited edition cast bronze coffee table reflects this cross-over. It reflects Adjaye’s architectural and sculptural vision on a new scale
The sculptural table with a clear glass top is constructed from four cast bronze panels, and four connecting plates. The rough hewn exterior contrasts the highly reflective, hand polished interior surface.
To mark Knoll’s 75th anniversary the bronze coffee table is limited to an edition of 75 @ $ USD 50,000 each
“This is a very, very different thing from just making objects,” Adjaye says.
Adjaye designed the coffee table to “have a visual power. The form actually helps us to make the structure,” he says.
Comparing the difference between designing buildings and furniture, Adjaye said: “Architecture is specific to a location and you know where it is and what it’s doing. Your furniture can be anywhere. It’s actually used by everyone. They touch it every day, they sit on it, they don’t think about it. It’s just their background. And there’s something very powerful about that and very rewarding.“
David Adjaye and the Washington Collection for Knoll
KNOLL: Could you sum up the Washington Collection for Knoll™ in a few sentences?
DAVID ADJAYE: The Washington Collection is an investigation into form, materials, balance and weight. I wanted to create furniture that is both playful and beautiful – appearing light yet also expressing monumentality.
Have you ever designed any furniture before? How did you approach the earliest phases of design?
I work at many different scales, with products and furniture sometimes providing a testing ground for the architecture. I have designed bespoke furniture – such as a concrete, integrated sofa for one of my clients, the Monoforms range and exterior seating at Waddesdon Manor – as well as products – including a range of vases for Gaia & Gino and door furniture for IZE. What is entirely new, however, is to have designed an entire collection and this has been extremely exciting. I have enjoyed the collaboration with Knoll – the sense of joint purpose and the creative dialogue with the technical team.
What surprised you about the experience of working with Knoll?
Sometimes what you think will work as the final product becomes an investigation – a kind of experiment. You know instantly that it ultimately won’t work, but it is part of the story and I have a real delight in the samples, the mock-ups and the sketches. It is an amazing luxury to be able to manipulate and sculpt – at full scale – as you go along. This is something you can’t do with buildings.
To what extent were you involved in the production, prototyping, color selection process?
We were totally involved! It was very exciting to see the full scale models and to experiment with feasibility as well as the aesthetic or intellectual dimension. We were also involved in the colour palette – the possibilities and the limitations – and we thought through very carefully how the furniture would be seen in different environments.
One could argue that furniture is at least temporarily without place, without context, without geography; did this influence your approach to the designs?
I would disagree. There is always a context – but it is a shifting context. For me, the context was the work I am currently doing in Washington – the connections are not linear – but there is a narrative about skin, form and structure that is manifested in the collection. It has been very important to respond faithfully to this moment, this current focus in my career. I strongly believe that architecture or design should have integrity within the context of its own time. This is what gives it an enduring relevance. I delight in the idea that once the collection is in production, it will re-emerge in many different contexts and take on a whole new language. This is hugely exciting – although not entirely different to the way that buildings are part of the shifting urban landscape, for example.
Describe your first encounter with Knoll.
In school – during the history of furniture lessons.
Do you have a favorite Knoll product?
Mies van der Rohe’s iconic Barcelona day bed.
Do you sketch?
Yes, all the time.
Your first “design memory”?
I lived in a number of African cities when I was growing up – and the idea of the modern city is a powerful memory. My father’s career in the civil service meant that we were usually posted in the emerging cities, the new cities that were being reinvented after independence. So for me, the continent of Africa is a group of rising metropolitan, Modernist cities. I thought that’s how all cities looked until I came to Europe!
Your favorite public space?
Luis Barragán’s Torres de Satélite in Mexico – a series of monumental sculptures – a moving composition that has established a strong resonance with urbanity and materiality in the city.
Best city for design?
“Best” and “worst” is not a relevant way of thinking about cities in terms of design. Cities are about the way people do things.
Best museum for design?
Mies van der Rohe’s Neue Nationalgalerie in Berlin – a highpoint of 20th Century architecture and engineering, representing a moment when modernity successfully conceptualised the relationship between inside and outside and created a highly symbolic space.
Some of your favorite buildings?
I am inspired by a number of buildings as well as the ideas of particular artists and architects. I admire the work of the late Egyptian architect, Hassan Fathy for example, who pioneered an architecture that responded very directly to climate, local materials and place.
Have you any interesting upcoming projects to share?
My first tower in China, a concept store in Nigeria, a silk weaving facility in India, a slavery museum in Ghana, a fashion hub in London…
A book to recommend?
Style in the Technical and Tectonic Arts; or, Practical Aesthetics by Gottfried Semper. It is an important manifesto on the root nature of architectural fabric and provides a formative discourse about the evolution of architecture.
About David Adjaye
David Adjaye OBE is recognized as a leading architect of his generation.
David was born in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania ( Ghanian parents) in 1966 and who moved to Britain as a child
His influences range from contemporary art, music and science to African art forms and the civic life of cities.
In 1994 he set up his first office, where his ingenious use of materials and his sculptural ability established him as an architect with an artist’s sensibility and vision.
Established in June 2000, Adjaye Associates is widely recognized as one of the leading architects of his generation.
The practice has gained international renown with work in Europe, North America, the Middle East, Asia and Africa, distinguished by its insightful cultural engagement and the transformative civic qualities of its buildings. Projects range in scale from private houses, exhibition design and temporary pavilions to major arts centres, civic buildings and masterplans.
Completed buildings include two community libraries in Washington DC, the Moscow School of Management, the Nobel Peace Centre in Oslo (in the shell of a disused railway station (completed in 2005), the Museum of Contemporary Art in Denver (2007) and two Idea Stores in London.
He exhibited at the 2005 Venice Biennale in collaboration with artist Olafur Eliasson, was shortlisted for the Stirling Prize for his work on the Whitechapel Idea Store in 2006 ( pioneering a new approach to the provision of information services ), and received the title of OBE (Order of the British Empire) from the Queen in 2007 for his service to British architecture.
Later projects in London included the Stephen Lawrence Centre, with teaching and community spaces (2007), Rivington Place, an exhibition venue and resource centre (2007), and the Bernie Grant Centre for the performing arts (2007).
In the United States Adjaye was the designer of two public libraries in Washington DC (2012), as well as of several innovative residential projects.
In 2009 a team led by Adjaye was selected to design the new Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture on the National Mall in Washington DC. The museum is currently under construction is scheduled to open in 2015.
Adjaye Associates now have offices in London, Berlin, New York and Accra, and are working on projects in Europe, North America, Asia and Africa.
Adjaye frequently collaborates with contemporary artists on art and installation projects.
Examples include The upper room, with thirteen paintings by Chris Ofili (2002), Within reach, a second installation with Ofili in the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale (2003), and the Thyssen-Bornemisza Art for the 21st Century Pavilion that was designed to show a projection work by Olafur Eliasson, Your black horizon, at the 2005 Venice Biennale. (The upper room is now in the permanent collection of Tate Britain.)
Adjaye has taught at the Royal College of Art, where he had previously studied, and at the Architectural Association School in London, and has held distinguished visiting professorships at the universities of Pennsylvania, Harvard and Princeton.
He co-presented two six-part series of DreamSpaces, on modern architecture (BBC television, 2002 and 2003), and interviewed the eminent architects Oscar Niemeyer and Charles Correa (BBC radio, 2004 and 2005).
In June 2005 he presented the BBC documentary film Building Africa: The architecture of a continent.
The material from Adjaye’s ten-year study of the capital cities of Africa was shown in Urban Africa, an exhibition at the Design Museum, London (2010) and published as African Metropolitan Architecture (New York, 2011, and as Adjaye Africa Architecture, London, 2011).
He was the artistic director of GEO-graphics: A map of art practices in Africa, past and present, a major exhibition at the Centre for Fine Arts, Brussels (2010).
The last exhibition of his architectural work, David Adjaye: Output, was held at Gallery MA, Tokyo (2010)
The new documentary ” This Building will Sign For Us” by Oliver Hardt portrays David Adjaye and explores his design for the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) in Washington D.C..
The museum is currently under construction is scheduled to open in 2015.
The film focuses on the question of how Adjaye deals with the challenge of building one of the most important buildings in African American history.
What role does “African” play in the idea of “African American?”
And in what form are historical, social and aesthetic considerations manifested in his design for the museum?
The 30 minutes documentary by Oliver Hardt portrays the British-Ghanaian star architect David Adjaye and explores his design for the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington D.C.
In this ad For Dunhill, the artist explains a bit about his profession.
“The funny thing about architecture is that the drawings are done by computer and are really precise, but the actual buildings are still made by hand. Because of that, they’re always a little wonky. Architects are always striving for perfection—we’re obsessed with it and that’s what drives us.
But, in the end, a builder might have had a really terrible morning and isn’t focused properly, and so the floor gets put down badly. There is always a humanizing of these ideas of perfection. We aren’t building with robots yet and, actually, it’s the little human errors—the imperfections—that make things interesting…”